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Tom Straszewski

BA (Hons) Viking Studies (University of Nottingham); MA Archaeology of Buildings (University of York); MA Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance (University of York)


Staging the York Mystery Plays in the 21st Century


My practice methodology is grounded in site-specific theatre. Through the lens of community theatre, and particularly the York Mystery Plays, I critique the discipline’s tendency towards devised work, fragmentary episodes (Smith 2019, p159), and a framing of resident communities as potential audiences rather than active creators (Ibid, 194).


By “site-specific” I therefore move beyond the physical structure. I include in this the communit(y/ies) that use and inhabit the site, exploring ways in which, like theatre performances, a community is a site of continual negotiation by individuals, each of whom brings their own concerns and abilities to the productions:


Communities of Faith- the congregation of All Saints North Street, and the church they inhabit. Can the plays be used to articulate their heritage and devotional practices in relation to the Virgin Mary?


Communities of Practice- those involved in staging productions of the York Mystery Plays, and more broadly the amateur theatre ecology of York; sites may include those that are already linked through performance (e.g. the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, York Minster, or the York Theatre Royal) or even spaces in which the plays are prepared for performance- rehearsal spaces, bedrooms, studies, green rooms, costume stores and workshops.


Communities of Presence- (or “communities of accident”)- communities created by the presence of individuals at the time of performance- such as the occupants of a street during a performance of a play on waggons.



I hold a BA in Viking Studies (University of Nottingham) and MAs in the Archaeology of Buildings (York) and Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance (also York). My background in buildings archaeology directly informs my approach to directing, focused on the interplay of site and text.

I was the Pageant Master for York Mystery Plays 2018 (, an assistant director for the 2016 York Minster Mystery Plays, and am currently adapting and directing the Lincoln Mystery Plays ( at Lincoln Cathedral. I work closely with the York International Shakespeare Festival (including curating the pop-up Dogrose Theatre) and York Shakespeare Project (Sonnet Walks; Merry Wives of Windsor; Two Noble Kinsmen).

I am also artistic director of Bronzehead Theatre, a theatre group specialising in adapting classic texts to historic sites. Productions include Shakespeare in pubs (Henry IV: A Pub Wake) and gardens (Richard II), Dracula in an abandoned house, a Dickens travelogue in parks (The Lazy Tour), and Ben Jonson's The Alchemist in a gin shop attic.


Research interests

Site-specific theatre; community theatre and amateur performance; medieval theatre, in particular the York Mystery Plays; adaptation for the stage; critical heritage studies

External activity

Doing it in the streets: the 2018 York Mystery Plays as street theatre (International Symposium on Mysteries Plays and Popular Theatre, 2019)

Painting the Town Red: The Crucifixion and Death of Christ (Société Internationale pour l'étude du théâtre médiéval/Records of Early English Drama North-East, 2016)

Palimpsests and performances of the Crucifixion and Death of Christ (Performance in the Changing City: Taking the Plays to the Next Generation, 2015)


Tom Straszwski

Contact details

Mr Tom Straszewski
PhD by Creative Practice